Saturday, April 16, 2011

Last-place Fire try to erase slide

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson -- Getty Images
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos typically stresses the importance of maintaining a similar lineup from game to game, as any coach would prefer. But with back-to-back road losses and the team's worst defensive effort of the season on Thursday, De los Cobos might have some important personnel decisions to make as the Fire attempt to end their little skid when they host the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday at Toyota Park.

The Fire posted road losses to Seattle Sounders FC on April 9 and the expansion Portland Timbers on Thursday, and the focus is on Chicago's recent shaky defensive efforts. Chicago allowed a season-high four goals against Portland in a 4-2 loss. Second-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson had one of his poorest efforts of the season against Portland, including the inability to secure the ball that directly led to the Timbers' third goal.

Following Saturday's training, De los Cobos was not ready to state a firm answer as to whether Johnson would return in the net on Sunday, or whether he is leaning toward 33-year-old Jon Conway to make his Fire debut.

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know," De los Cobos said. "Right now, I don't know. I need to think. I need to talk with [Sean] first. ... We have a good player like Jonny. I think Jonny is very good to stick with us because he can help transmit his experience to Sean and to help him mature."

One person who is back in the mix is center defensive back Josip Mikulic. The Fire missed the stability of Mikulic, who had an effective first two games of the season. Mikulic then injured his quad during 11-vs.-11 training the day before Chicago's Lamar Hunt U.S. Opener Cup qualifier against the Colorado Rapids on March 30.

"Right now, it's perfect," Mikulic said of his leg. "Not to worry -- I'm ready."

The Galaxy confirmed Saturday to that Donovan (knee inflammation) is unavailable for Sunday's game. David Beckham (yellow card accumulation, suspended), Juninho (two yellows on Wednesday, suspended) and Jovan Kirovski (second game of two-game suspension) also are not available for the Galaxy (2-1-3).


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